Commenting on Leibowitz


I concur with many of David Liebowitz’s conceptions about biased thinking and its effects upon our decisions regarding important issues. 

We all want to be right about our choices by looking for reasons to justify them, and David’s positions are taken to confirm his biases. But I think he has committed numerous errors in his process of arriving at decisions about, “What kills our kids with the greatest frequency?” The objective of his article is to lessen the fears of Arizona citizens over COVID-19 danger with respect to those 20 years old and younger. 

I could add several more tragic illnesses that humanity has controlled or eliminated with vaccines, many of which were steadfastly refused by anti-vaccination arguers of the past — then, as now, mostly on the conservative right. 

These include, but are not limited to, smallpox, chickenpox, measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, polio, tetanus and a host of others. 

Additionally, masks were resisted vehemently during attempts to institute many of the above-mentioned vaccines. So, here we are again creating issues for culture wars, instead of protecting children. What have we learned from the history of the world about diseases and vaccines?

Because COVID-19 kills and hospitalizes more “age 55 or older,” David surmises we should not be worried about “a spike in COVID (cases) among Arizona children.” I couldn’t disagree more. 

The medical world is trying to assess what the long-term repercussions will be of the myriad symptoms noted to date from contracting the virus, particularly within the age cohort under 20. So how many decades will the unfortunate children and young adult victims of COVID-19 suffer from unknown aftereffects? Better safe and cautious than to risk a lifetime of misery for a child of our times? 

A quantum leap is also made in David’s thought process that — maskless, as Gov. Ducey directs — sending kids to school would be less dangerous to the students than to “older principals, teachers and school staffers.” 

Firstly, most adult educators are likely to be vaccinated by now (although they too are dying from getting COVID-19 in the schools they work in), while the under-12-year-olds and students living with anti-vaccine parents, who worry about their “freedom” more than their child’s health, are unprotected and more likely to spread the disease among themselves. 

Wouldn’t parents be infuriated, if they discovered their children got COVID-19 because school personnel around them were unvaccinated or positive carriers? We do know that the delta variant of COVID-19 is moving much more rapidly among the unvaccinated, where state governors refuse to issue vaccine and/or mask mandates, but are, simultaneously, moving in refrigerated morgue trailers. 

Indeed, Texas, one of the “nonmandate” states, has had 73,000 positive cases among their students in less than a month after school opening. The CDC — which, like government health agencies worldwide, admittedly seems to often be playing catch-up — is reporting that the unvaccinated are 11 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than the vaccinated. 

Freedom in a democracy is about individual rights and responsibilities, where we take care of each other as a community. Individual choices concern things like what will I wear today or what podcast will I listen to — not whether I should make myself and others sick if I choose to today, particularly with respect to children. 

Most children cannot make the choice of getting vaccinated and/or wearing a mask, to prevent themselves from being on the “side” of supporting COVID-19’s exponential growth. In about 16 months, the United States has had more than 661,320 COVID-19 deaths, and delta now has the country at about 1,500 deaths per day. Even with the speed of delta’s transmissibility, children and adults can be asymptomatic or unaware spreaders for several days. 

As a former lifetime educator and school psychologist, I was always amazed at the rate of disease transfer among students from pre-K through high school. 

Contagious illnesses moved among the student population with the speed of social media rumors. So, again, why suggest that students are not at risk? 

As far as genuine concerns about learning loss go, the resiliency in a child’s recovery of lost information was always more dependent upon their return to good teachers and supportive parents. 

The more hand wringing due to parental fears about a child’s loss of school attendance, the more anxiety ridden were their kids. Rather than the governor financially rewarding or enticing schools systems to support his future political ambitions, expressed as anti-mask and anti-vaccine rhetoric, these funds would be more appropriately distributed if based upon the learning needs of the systems’ students. Then David’s delineated student “cases, hospitalizations, deaths and vaccination levels,” would not be dependent upon ZIP codes.

Finally, David acknowledges using Arizona data from 2019 or pre-pandemic to list causes of deaths among state children. Well, how does he have any idea what the data will look like from the results of almost 200,000 positive Arizona cases of COVID-19 so far, and the long-term effects upon kids who contract it. 

Additionally, maybe the state needs to more closely address, with necessary resources and interventions, the causes of death among children that David lists like “car crashes” (I assume an adult was driving), “homicides” (guns and blunt force; how did the kids get a gun), parental substance abuse (how about more rehab), “unsafe sleep environments” (runaways, sudden infant death syndrome, etc.), and “natural death” (premature birth, birth defects, cancer, and other diseases like COVID-19). 

With respect to his comparison of “your average case of the flu” to COVID-19, it’s a stretch. Such conclusions will be more appropriate after we get out of this mess, which will only happen if masks and vaccines are mandated in Arizona and the other resistant states where, coincidentally, the highest rates of positive cases, hospitalizations and deaths among the entire nation exist. 

President Lincoln stated one month before the Emancipation Proclamation, “Fellow citizens, we cannot escape history. We … will be remembered in spite of ourselves. No personal significance or insignificance can spare one or another of us. The fiery trial through which we pass, will light us down in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation. … The world knows we do know how to save it.” 

Do you want to be viewed 10 years from now about our decisions, right or wrong, and their effects upon today’s children? Will we be forced to defend bad choices made to protect our symbolic beliefs, rather than logical actions to prevent harm to the kids?

Art Veves